Back

US composer with Arab name is held for hours at JFK

April 30, 2017 by norman lebrecht

37 comments.


Mohammed Fairouz, a US citizen whose work has been recorded on Deutsche Grammophon, has said he was detained for four hours at JFK Airport, New York, by officials who refused to give a reason for their suspicion.

Fairouz, born in the UAE, travels on a US passport.

A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the agency cannot talk about individuals but said people entering the United States, including American citizens, must prove that they’re eligible to enter or re-enter the country.

Read on here.

This is Fairouz’s own account.


Comments (37)

  1. Scott Fields says:

    The Washington Post says that Fairuoz was born in the UAE, implying that he’s naturalized, but I believe that’s incorrect. Many other, earlier, articles say that he was born in New York City to parents of Palestinian descent. Not the treatment would be justified in either case.

    1. Olassus says:

      From the article:

      “In a statement, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the agency cannot talk about individuals but said people entering the United States, including American citizens, must prove that they’re eligible to enter or re-enter the country.”

      This must mean a U.S. passport by itself does not establish eligibility.

      Therefore we lack information on which to criticize the extra screening, and the fact that “he recorded a string orchestra” in Britain does not change this.

      Some of us refrain from international travel to avoid risk and difficulties. Mohammed Fairouz could always do the same.

      “The behavior that I experienced and witnessed is behavior that distinguishes the United States in the most embarrassing way possible,” says he. Well, patriotic Americans make such comparisons only to remind themselves of the greatness of their country and are not the least bit embarrassed by needed screening.

      1. Scott Fields says:

        Indeed! What kind of imbecile would attempt to travel internationally while flaunting an Arabic-sounding name? My father changed our family name (not Arab, but in the ballpark) to avoid just these sorts of inconveniences, such as housing and job descrimination. A little skin bleaching, maybe some hair dye, and Mr. Smith (née Fairouz) will breeze through immigration control. It’s common sense, like locking your luggage.

        1. Olassus says:

          Complexion, as you know, is hardly the problem.

          1. Scott Fields says:

            No, I don’t know that race isn’t part of the problem.

      2. Peter says:

        “Some of us refrain from international travel to avoid risk and difficulties. Mohammed Fairouz could always do the same.”

        The Land of the free… LOL

        1. Olassus says:

          He is certainly free to travel within it (and recall the pledge rather than whine).

          1. Peter says:

            Wow. Spoken like a true Soviet Union apparatchik. Hopelessly deep brainwashed.

          2. Olassus says:

            No, not brainwashed. There is a Pledge of Allegiance. You can learn about it here:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance

          3. Peter says:

            I know that pledge. It is irrelevant, ideological scripture. It is not law. It means nothing, really.
            That pledge is very similar to the kind of the pledges young people had to recite in the Soviet Union. Amazing, when you actually think about it…

      3. will says:

        ‘Imbecile’ is a loaded word.
        Sarcasm is the lowest from of wit!

        1. will says:

          typo: ‘FORM’ not ‘FROM’

          1. Olassus says:

            Will, I’m not seeing anything imbecilic here. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has a job to do. What I don’t understand is why, with his fingerprints, they didn’t separate him from the other (problematic) Mohammed Fairouzes while he was on the flight, avoiding the need to hold him for 3½ hours. Other than that, it seems to me a reasonable process was followed, according to both the WPost and the Independent write-ups.

          2. Peter says:

            OK, I will pull he Godwin’s law card.
            The guards in Auschwitz also had a job to do.
            Not that it is the same, but the ideological fervor and brainwashing of people like you to not see the injustice and wrong doing, is comparable. The beginnings are comparable also.
            Your comments are frightening, Olassus.

        2. Scott Fields says:

          In fact I’ve been told that punning is the lowest form of wit. At least that’s what I remember, sitting here in my chair, stretching my arms, feeling like a limb muscle.

          1. Scott Fields says:

            Olassus, that’s the whole point of the imbecilicity. They had his fingerprints and had identified him, but held him for hours based on his not uncommon name. They knew who he was and that he was an American citizen, but because of his ethnic origin and visits to the Middle East, held him.

            The last time I reentered the States (I live abroad), the agent wanted to know why I had visited so many countries (touring musician). In spite of his disappointment of me not being in a rock band, he didn’t detain me. But I’m pale and my family name has been radically anglicized.

          2. Olassus says:

            This comment implies they held him out of spite.

          3. AnnaT says:

            Olassus, surely you know that the pledge of allegiance is a voluntary (and jingoistic) statement that is neither based in policy nor legally binding nor mandatory to recite. Your invocation of it here is chilling, at best.

          4. Olassus says:

            Obviously it means nothing to you.

  2. Chris says:

    None of these appalling stories coming out of ‘The Land of the Free’ are surprising anymore, at least not to anyone who travels internationally regularly. I was recently travelling on a flight to the U.S. and was detained for two hours at Atlanta International Airport. Why? What did I do? I had a stamp in my passport from a business trip last year to Dubai and was asked repeatedly what the purpose of my trip was. When I truthfully told the agent that it was for business, I was very rudely and sarcastically asked, “What business?” When I said that I met with a tech start-up, that my family’s firm was interested in investing in, I was taken to a separate room, where I was asked the name of our firm and who was the person that I met in Dubai! Needless to say, like more and more business travellers and tourists, I avoid any travel to the U.S. if it can be avoided. It reminds me too much of travel to the communist East Bloc in the 70’s and 80’s, but perhaps the U.S. is even worse, as one feels that you are dealing with moronic robots who bark questions, have absolutely no knowledge of the world and treat anything foreign as highly suspicious. Few places can be more provincial in their worldview, yet they think that they can run the world. There are far nicer places to travel to, invest money in and spend holidays.

    1. Frankie says:

      +1

      1. Olassus says:

        -1

        “What business?” — a reasonable question. Verification of your story: also reasonable.

        ” … dealing with moronic robots who bark questions, have absolutely no knowledge of the world and treat anything foreign as highly suspicious.” — anti-American.

        “Few places can be more provincial in their worldview.” — the U.S. is too big and too varied to be called a province, and you can be sure Americans know their country rather well. Call it a countryview.

        ” … they think that they can run the world.” — to a great extent they do. American restraint has created the peace you enjoy, American ingenuity the planes you fly, and American taxpayers the Internet you see and read.

    2. Pianofortissimo says:

      Well, Chris, the customs officer probably just wanted to check if you (your family business) were not selling high-tech products to be used by e.g. ISIS or some ‘skurk state.’

  3. Ungeheuer says:

    Humiliating and shameful

  4. Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    American Paranoia rules supreme, as ever.

  5. Nick says:

    I do not see any “American Paranoia” in that. “officials… refused to give a reason for their suspicion” – says N.L. Of course they would refuse: they are afraid that the liberal wolves will attack them as they always do. And this posting of NL is the proof.
    The reason is simple and obvious: a young Arabic looking male with a blunt Arabic (Palestinian) name. This is more than enough to be stopped and even turned back in the post 9/11 era on ANY BORDER, not only American. Paranoia – is having an unreasonable “idée fixe”. This is not paranoia. The reason and the ground is as real as it comes. Islamic terrorism makes the imprint on our lives all over the world. America – is hardly to be blamed for that, let alone President Trump. But the left always takes the side of the perpetrator instead of a victim. Mr. Fairouz is just an unfortunate bearer of the Arabic name: wrong name and the wrong place in the wrong time. He is grown up enough to endure it. And he should thank his (palestinian) people for the privilege of being only detained. Palestinians have committed enough killings of innocent people, so he should not whine being detained at the border.
    As far as Deutsche Grammophon goes: being recorded on any label does not free anyone from the civil responsibilities and does not guarantee unrestricted world travel! So, this is another vain attempt of the left (NL) to justify the accusation of the victims.

  6. Steve P says:

    Interesting and telling comments. No one has a right to fly; it is neither implicit or explicit in the law. When something in a person’s travel profile triggers a particular response – whether it be race, travel history, or whatever – I’d hope the officials would take the time to ensure passenger safety, regardless of how much the traveler in question is inconvenienced.
    By all means bash the US and take your money elsewhere. I enjoy flying abroad and am annoyed when I take off my shoes, hold my arms above my head, have shaving cream taken (last Thursday), etc. But I prefer the opportunity to fly safely over doubting the passengers on my flight.

    1. Frankie says:

      I think that there would be a little more sympathy with the antics of ‘security’ at airports if there was one iota of evidence that it was of any use!

      1. Steve P says:

        Fewer planes crashing=correlation? Up to you to make that statistical leap.

        1. Frankie says:

          C’mon Peter – lets have some numbers, names and facts!! Not just Fox facts. Evidence that 100mls fluid or gel is relevant, evidence that laptops are safer in holds, evidence that taking off boots helps! Not a sausage!

    2. Ruth says:

      Sir, This gentleman was NOT FLYING. He was returning to his own country, had already given his fingerprints and his identity should have been clear.
      Once again, Americans, as is sadly so often the case, don’t take the time to understand a situation, to think about it, but come to rash, naive and simplistic conclusions. This same mental process, or lack of one, has been responsible for so much tragedy in our world. Does anyone remember, “They have weapons of mass destruction. They do! They do! Start bombing!!!” and so many other similar miscalculations that have lead to death, destruction and global instability? The incident that we are speaking about here has nothing to do with security on an airplane and can not be equated with your shaving cream that was confiscated from you last Thursday! It is about a man returning to his country and being detained upon entry. I sadly agree with others here, that the U.S. is to be avoided as a travel and investment destination unless absolutely necessary.

      1. Steve P says:

        Oddly, I don’t believe coming or going it an issue as much as who is allowed/not allowed into the country.
        Without elaborating, I assure you there were WMD’s found in Iraq. I personally know an eyewitness to chemical weapon discoveries. Did it get reported? Nope – whitewashed on the scene with a few well-placed guided bombs.
        Yeah, America is the great evil. Wonder which imperialist nation you’d prefer as the super power?

        1. NYMike says:

          “Without elaborating, I assure you there were WMD’s found in Iraq. I personally know an eyewitness to chemical weapon discoveries. Did it get reported? Nope – whitewashed on the scene with a few well-placed guided bombs.”

          And your “assurance” is to be taken for the truth?? Pardon me while I laugh and barf at the same time. Being detained while not being told why is indeed Kafkaesque, smacking of nothing more than raw power in the hands of idiots leading to a fascist state.

  7. Angry New Yorker says:

    What happened to Mohammed Fairouz was quite simply OUTRAGEOUS and part and parcel of this Fascist government’s behavior of late (I use the “F” word deliberately here). My husband, from Scotland and a Green Card holder, has been taken to that “little room” pretty much every time he travels to and from the U.S. He’s white and I’m still frightened for him now in this climate. There is no excuse in the world for abusive treatment, no matter where you come from or where you have traveled. If there is a legitimate reason to question someone it can and should be done with respect. Four hours?

    1. Heather says:

      The situation over there is far worse than most people imagine. They have even recently detained and interrogated the former Norwegian Prime Minister. At the rate that the U.S. is going, soon very few people who believe in justice and freedom will put their foot in that place…truly scary!!!:

      https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/03/former-norway-pm-bondevik-held-washington-dulles-airport-2014-visit-iran

      http://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/06/americas/former-norwegian-pm-detained-by-us-immigration-iran/


Leave a Reply to Chris Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *